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Chick-fil-A CEO, S. Truett Cathy

Chick-fil-A CEO, S. Truett Cathy
Truett Cathy & William Cooper
S. Truett Cathy, founder of the famous and boneless chicken breast sandwich, is the CEO of one of the largest privately held restaurant chains in America, Chick-fil-A. With over 1,205 restaurants across the U.S. and over 1.5 billion in sales annually, Cathy and his world famous chicken sandwiches have come a long way from their modest beginnings in 1946, when Cathy established his first chicken sandwich outlet, the Dwarf Grill. Since that time, Chick-fil-A has undergone a series of growing spurts and pains, but Chick-fil-A stands strong today as a major fast-food component.

In a recent interview with ChristiaNet.com's president and CEO, Bill Cooper, S. Truett Cathy shared about his success, his challenges, and his enthusiasm for running and maintaining a business where integrity comes first. Chick-fil-A's mission statement reveals their commitment to service: "To be American's best quick-service restaurant at winning and keeping customers." Chick -fil-A's purpose statement reveals the heart of their company: "That we might glorify God by being a faithful steward in all that is entrusted to our care, and that we might have a positive influence on all the people that we might come in contact with."

Cathy told ChristiaNet that his company truly began to turn around after a crucial meeting in 1982, when he and an executive committee answered hard questions within their own hearts. "We began to ask ourselves some hard and important questions like, "Why are we alive? Why are we in business? What do we intend to do about all these problems? '" The results of the internal questioning led to their development of their purpose, and since then Chick-fil-A has had yearly increases in volume and sales.

"Miraculous things began to happen to this company", Cathy revealed. "We started an incentive program for our operators who reached an increase of 40 percent or greater in annual sales." Chick-fil-A then began to reach and make a difference in the lives of the people it serves. "In 1983, we began our relationship with Berry College through which we initiated a scholarship program to attract Chick-fil-A employees to the college." The first year, Cathy and his company were able to offer sixty-eight scholarships. And now, that scholarship foundation has grown to help 125 students.

Chick-fil-A also sponsors a boys and girls camp and through a foundation founded over twenty years ago by Cathy. The WinShape Centre Foundation has also sponsored and built fourteen foster homes in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Brazil. The WinShape Family Centre also offers marital conferences and retreats for entire families. Chick-fil-A has placed a Bible in every school throughout the entire state of Georgia.

Though the chicken sandwich is very tasty to the pallet, the chicken sandwich business has not always been a bed of roses. Cathy shared some of the challenges of running Chick-fil-A with ChristiaNet. "About twenty years ago, back in 1982, we had some difficulties here at Chick-fil-A. Our business was being hurt by other major chains getting into the chicken breast sandwich business. This was the same year that we moved into our corporate headquarters and were paying on a $10 million loan." The financial stress led Cathy and his executive committee to re-evaluate their goals, dreams, and future. "A person's morals are demonstrated daily through our personal lives. In my personal life, I really try to live up to our Corporate Purpose."

But through the thick and through the thin of business, Cathy seems not only committed to his purpose and mission, but also to his 100,000 plus employees. Cathy has gone the extra mile to ensure that he attracts the kind of people that will represent his purpose and mission well. "Selecting the right people is a big responsibility; making sure you have the right people with the right qualities for the job. When we select managers and leaders, we look first at the person's character," He told ChristiaNet.

Cathy went on to explain his secret to people success, "We evaluate each person as an individual and the importance of honesty and integrity is understood by them up front. Because of our company benefits - one of which is being off on Sundays-Chick-fil-A is able to attract hundreds of good, honorable employees and, by having good people, our problems are kept to a minimum." Cathy believes that people of integrity are willing to work hard at being successful in their jobs. Cathy also believes that integrity is the only thing between success and failure.

Cathy's not only wants his employees to experience the rewards of integrity in the work place, but he wants everything he teaches and trains with regard to honesty to be carried through to the home and families of his workers. "To emphasize our beliefs about responsibility at the workplace, and at home, we sponsor an annual seminar for our employees at which I remind them that the worst thing that could happen to Chick-fil-A is for them to get divorced from their family." Cathy told ChristiaNet that he believes a breakup of the family unit can affect every aspect of life. "All our seminars are geared toward the family."

And, Cathy's seminars, devotion to his mission, purpose, and employees are paying off in more than annual sales. "With about 104,000 families involved yet, we've had only about two divorces a year within our entire company, " He claimed. "We have had only a three percent employee turnover in our headquarters staff and unit operators." Cathy's priorities for his company and employees are on target. "All these are positive aspects of life and they work together for the good of all of us."


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